Choir loses director, seeks other options
Marking a time of transition for the Linfield music ensembles, the absence of a full-time choir director has left Masterworks Chorale disbanded. For students with music scholarships, this has meant a re-evaluation of their participation in the music department.
The chorale, an ensemble that met once weekly and was composed of both Linfield students and McMinnville community members, provided a place for participants to sing at a level that was less advanced than the Linfield Concert Choir.
The group was discontinued not only for reasons of budget and enrollment, but because of the effect had by the departure of former director Larry Marsh, Faun Tiedge, professor of music and department chair, said.
“It was truly Dr. Marsh’s chorale,” she said. “Many community members left with him.”
Marsh retired in 2008 after 27 years of service.
Unfortunately, this decision has had an additional effect on music students, as the chorale had been an alternative for those on scholarship to fulfill their requirements if the college’s other three large ensembles—Concert Choir, Concert Band and the Linfield Chamber Orchestra—suited neither their interests nor their schedules.
Junior Melissa Davaz was one of the students affected. While her musical interests are primarily vocal, her spring-semester schedule only allowed involvement in the Concert Band.
Picking up a clarinet for the first time since high school, Davaz is also learning to play percussion. The feat, which she said is a challenge with her packed schedule, is not one she planned for.
Davaz said she learned of the ensemble’s discontinuance just three weeks before the start of the term. Although the department informed students of their alternatives, she said she felt the details of these other options were overly vague considering what is asked of the members of any ensemble.
“You have to commit a lot of hours,” she said. “With the change we [as student members] have had to jump through some hoops, but
because we love music, we’re willing to put up with these [problems].”
From the standpoint of a faculty member, Tiedge said she believes the standards surrounding music scholarships had become lax in recent years in an effort to build up the choir’s enrollment number. This, she said, is what has led to some confusion on the part of chorale members.
“In the past, students have been spoiled with flexibility,” she said.
Because the reputation that precedes the Linfield Concert Choir, Tiedge said she expects students to make rehearsal time a priority in order to maintain its high standing among its peers.
As for Masterworks Chorale, Tiedge said she is optimistic for the chorale’s
return to Linfield curriculum in the future. She said the ensemble’s character will be re-evaluated based on the goals of the new full-time choir director, once he or she is hired.
“The choir will gain renewed energy with this break,” she said.
Currently, the department is conducting an open search for a new director.
In the meantime, Anna Song, adjunct director of choir activities, has taken on the position part-time and is directing a new section of the Concert Choir that Tiedge said she hopes will provide an acceptable alternative to the discontinued ensemble.
This new section will allow students to gain experience singing in a smaller group and give them a chance to work with an accompanist, Tiedge said.
She also said the department has made an effort to maintain the level of community interaction Masterworks Chorale achieved by providing a practice space for the newly formed “Vintage Voices,” an adult jazz choir directed by Dana Libonati, director of the Linfield Jazz Choir.
Both students and staff said they realized the importance of this outreach.
Davaz said she thought this link to community members was one of the things she enjoyed most about Masterworks Chorale, also said these members are who she first thought when she heard that the ensemble had been disbanded.
As the music department makes its transition to new faculty members, Tiedge said much effort will be placed into continuing to provide students with ample opportunity to participate in a high level of music education.
“We have to have the quality meet the commitment,” she said.